How Medieval Herbs Were Used

By: Lee Dobbins..

For millenniums, in all different cultures throughout the world, cultivating and reaping herbs has been performed. It was even considered a high art in medieval Europe. With the Greeks lacking medical know-how and technology, the Middle Ages relied heavily on Medieval herbs for medicines. The practice they used mixed knowledge through experience with balderdash, but they did know much that was well-grounded.

The Medieval herb garden was both beautiful and functional, providing herbs for medicinal purposes and cooking as well as a setting for calm reflection. These gardens have been reincarnated in New York's Cloisters. Constructed in the 1930's, it was carefully planned based on its Medieval predecessor. The result of the planners' attention to detail resulted in a stunning accomplishment of that goal.

The herb garden is prominently featured among The Cloisters' numerous sections. Despite the various types of New York weather that occur throughout the year, over 250 species are able to be grown.

These historical herb gardens were very original and had raised garden beds, wattle fences and a central wellhead along with the Medieval herbs. These gardens served as a magnificent centerpiece and were often surrounded by lush orchards and other pretty plants.

Most are held in appropriate pots which resemble those often found during that period. They let herbalists bring more fragile ones in during winter, when New York temperatures dip well below zero Fahrenheit and snow is a common sight.

Medieval herbs were often used to keep evil spirits away or thought to have possessed magic powers, which was the case with dill. Rosemary was believed to prevent the plague, and sage was used to help epileptics.

At the Cloisters, herbs can be found placed in nine specific collections based on the original medieval groupings. The first group is for absinthe and thistles, while the second is dedicated to herbs used in medical applications, such as licorice or St. John's Wort. Aromatics such as lavender and lemon balm are in the third group.

Herbs have been categorized by their usefullness in art and other questionable purposes such as promoting Love and Marriage. Meadow Rue and 'magic' plants such as Herb Robert are good examples. There is also a category for herbs used in cooking such as Caraway, Fennel, Parsley and Borage.

Medieval herbs were used all over, maybe even more than today, but herbalists in these times still have the same plants available. We hear so much about the medicinal attributes of these herbs and these applications often go hand in hand with their medieval uses.

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You can learn more about all types of herbs including medicinal herbs, culinary herbs and even medieval herbs at where you will get basic tips for growing herbs both indoors and out.

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